PKT Logistics Group’s Datuk Michael Tio has gathered quite a following. While this can be somewhat attributed to his presence on Facebook, Tio is also well regarded for his efforts in transforming his company.

“A lot of other entrepreneurs ask me how I managed to grow the company tremendously and yet, I am always travelling,” he shares.

Tio credits his management team for holding the fort. But he has spent years investing in the team; bringing them on their annual management retreats, taking the time to bond with them and setting an example on how to bring the company forward.

So when others ask Tio how it is that his efforts have been so effective, Tio’s response is to show them.

“I’ve been on Facebook for so long and I get a lot of messages from young entrepreneurs, asking me whether I can mentor them or not. They know I’ve been mentoring a lot of entrepreneurs and today, they are all successful.

“But as a mentor, I don’t have the time to spend over 20 hours talking to one person.

“However, I like to travel. And during these holidays, they are welcome to follow me,” he says.

Twice a year, Tio hosts around 20-odd entrepreneurs and CEOs on his study tours. The trips, modeled after PKT’s management retreats, are held over 12 days. And like his management trips, Tio will make all the arrangements.

Tio’s tours, famously known as DMT Study Tour, are the stuff of legend. The group has scaled up Snowdon, admired the structures of Stonehenge, cheered at an Arsenal match and enjoyed the scenic views that the English landscape has to offer.

More importantly, the trips are an opportunity for other entrepreneurs to pick his brain and observe how Tio does it all.

This is what the DMT Study Tour is all about, he says, to allow other entrepreneurs to learn by observing.

“I can’t tell you. I need to show you how to do it. It’s leadership by example.”

On these trips, too, business owners and CEOs would share rooms and change roommates every night. This forces everyone to step out of their comfort zones and have resulted in amusing experiences for the participants. Tio would regale listeners with stories of face masks and earplugs for snoring.

But the rooming arrangement also helps to take down the barrier between the participants, creating a more conducive environment for them to share the challenges of running a business and to encourage each other with their own practices to learn from one another.

Constant discussions take place whenever members of the group come together. Everyone freely and openly share their thoughts and opinions, without any distractions, interruptions, prejudices, or fear of what another competitor would do with such information.

These sharing sessions become more valuable thanks to the vast and varied collective experience of the participants who come from a diverse range of industries.

Tio says some of the participants have gone on to implement some of the lessons that they’ve taken away from these trips and have shared positive feedback on the changes they have observed at their companies.

This method of mentoring, says Tio, is his way of giving back to the entrepreneurial community.

TBV Capital Sdn Bhd managing partner Andrew Tan, 38, wasn’t expecting much when he signed up to join the latest study tour last October. He had met Tio a few months before that and was more intrigue by the fact that the trip was very much a do-it-yourself.

“But it went above my expectations. There were a lot of learnings and breakthroughs from this trip.

“One of the most valuable thing from the trip was Tio himself, the way he leads and sets the example, being able to see how he walks his talk. No matter how tired we were from the long days and late nights, he was the first one up, motivating all of us to keep going,” shares Tan.

He also notes Tio’s entrepreneurial skills and ability to manage his team.

Tan hopes to inculcate a similar culture and management style at his company and to build better rapport with his management and employees.

Likewise, 41-year-old John Yong, managing director of Lafrowda Properties Sdn Bhd, is inspired by Tio’s leadership style.

“His leadership style is different from what I know. Personally, I wanted to join the trip to get to know Tio better and to know his thoughts on entrepreneurship, and also to expand my network.

“What was also interesting about the trip was the sharing sessions. We did a lot of sharing, after dinner and even in the car rides. That kind of sharing is helpful for younger entrepreneurs because they can learn from the experiences of the older ones,” says Yong.

He is looking forward to organising and personalising his own company trips and to have them be more purposeful in building bonds at the office.

“Our company trips are usually planned by the Human Resource team or tour companies. But if we can organise it for our own staff, I think they will enjoy it more. I will do that for my company,” he says.

Reaching out

Tio encourages entrepreneurs to seek out mentors who can help them navigate through the challenges of running a business and who will caution them of potential pitfalls.

“They save you from making bad decisions. They will always tell you the truth and can save you from the learning curve. You don’t have to go through all the problems. You can find out how to avoid certain things. And this can expedite your growth rather than having to beat around the bush,” he says.

While slightly more established business owners like Tio are available to provide mentorship, he says younger entrepreneurs must make the effort to reach out for help.

“You cannot just sit in your office and think that you can change your company just like that. You need to be inspired by somebody. And besides inspiration, you need to be guided,” he adds.

However, he notes that it takes time to establish a mentorship relationship.

Tio is often approached for mentorship through Facebook.

“Technically, you are a stranger. For me to mentor you, I need to get to know you. But I may not always have the time to have coffee with you as I don’t know you yet. And I don’t want to teach you halfheartedly.

“So the DMT Study Tour is an opportunity for you to join me and for seven days, you can have breakfast, lunch and dinner with me. That is a time for us to get to know each other,” he says.

He adds that young entrepreneurs should look to mentors that are not too advanced to ensure that the advice given would still be relevant.

“For example, I believe a startup should look for a mentor from a similar industry but is more matured, maybe from a company of RM10mil-RM20mil revenue. Then a RM10mil-RM20mil company should look for a mentor from a RM100mil company and those earning more than RM100mil can look for a mentor from a RM1bil company.

“That means looking up to somebody who has already achieved that level and know where you are heading to. Otherwise, getting a mentor from a very big company to mentor a startup, for example, could be a waste of time because things change so fast. What they know may be different from what you need to know now.

“A mentor is supposed to help you get to the next level,” he says.